Ben Bartosik

January 23, 2024

Reading a book this morning on Christian history from a global perspective that I picked up a while ago and never got around to reading. The focus of the author is to highlight the role of mission and how the tradition grew and formed in its various contexts; as opposed to the usual Eurocentric view that has tended to dominate Christian history. I'll try to layer in some interesting ideas as they emerge.

The major takeaway up front is to be reminded that there is no single, clear trajectory of the Christian tradition; it is something fluid, constantly evolving and recontextualizing for every new time and place. It emerges from lived experience, responses to challenges and controversies, and interactions with other cultural forces. Contextualizing, more than preserving, is the more accurate understanding of the tradition.

What's more, for the first few centuries at least, belonging to the church (in a universal sense) was about relationship rather than adherence to rules or doctrines. Bishops, were meant to be those who could trace their lineage of appointment back to the apostles; sort of like an apprenticeship model that lent credibility to one's leadership. Cyprian's famous quip, "outside the church there is no salvation," is a response to the question of rebaptism by those who were not baptized by bishops who carried the proper lineage credentials.

I guess what I'm getting at here is that we spend a lot of time arguing about what set of beliefs or practices constitute the right version of Christianity but history is rarely that neat and tidy.